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Numbers 10:29-36

Context
The Appeal to Hobab

10:29 1 Moses said to Hobab son of Reuel, the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, 2  “We are journeying to the place about which the Lord said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us and we will treat you well, 3  for the Lord has promised good things 4  for Israel.” 10:30 But Hobab 5  said to him, “I will not go, but I will go instead to my own land and to my kindred.” 10:31 Moses 6  said, “Do not leave us, 7  because you know places for us to camp in the wilderness, and you could be our guide. 8  10:32 And if you come with us, it is certain 9  that whatever good things the Lord will favor us with, we will share with you as well.”

10:33 So they traveled from the mountain of the Lord three days’ journey; 10  and the ark of the covenant of the Lord was traveling before them during the three days’ journey, to find a resting place for them. 10:34 11  And the cloud of the Lord was over them by day, when they traveled 12  from the camp. 10:35 And when the ark traveled, Moses would say, “Rise up, O Lord! May your enemies be scattered, and may those who hate you flee before you!” 10:36 And when it came to rest he would say, “Return, O Lord, to the many thousands of Israel!” 13 

1 sn For additional bibliography for this short section, see W. F. Albright, “Jethro, Hobab, and Reuel in Early Hebrew Tradition,” CBQ 25 (1963): 1-11; G. W. Coats, “Moses in Midian,” JBL 92 (1973): 3-10; B. Mazar, “The Sanctuary of Arad and the Family of Hobab the Kenite,” JNES 24 (1965): 297-303; and T. C. Mitchell, “The Meaning of the Noun h£tn in the Old Testament,” VT 19 (1969): 93-112.

2 sn There is a problem with the identity of Hobab. The MT says that he is the son of Reuel, making him the brother-in-law of Moses. But Judg 4:11 says he is the father-in-law. In Judg 1:16; 4:11 Hobab is traced to the Kenites, but in Exod 3:1 and 18:1 Jethro (Reuel) is priest of Midian. Jethro is identified with Reuel on the basis of Exod 2:18 and 3:1, and so Hobab becomes Moses’ חֹתֵן (khoten), a relative by marriage and perhaps brother-in-law. There is not enough information to decide on the identity and relationships involved here. Some suggest that there is one person with the three names (G. B. Gray, Numbers [ICC], 93); others suggest Hobab is a family name (R. F. Johnson, IDB 2:615), and some suggest that the expression “the son of Reuel the Midianite” had dropped out of the genealogy of Judges, leading to the conflict (J. Crichton, ISBE 2:1055). If Hobab is the same as Jethro, then Exod 18:27 does not make much sense, for Jethro did go home. On this basis many conclude Hobab is a brother-in-law. This would mean that after Jethro returned home, Moses conversed with Hobab, his brother-in-law. For more discussion, see the articles and the commentaries.

3 tn The verb is the Hiphil of the root “to be good” (יָטַב, yatav); it may be translated “treat well, deal favorably, generously with.” Here it is a perfect tense with vav (ו) following the imperative, showing a sequence in the verbal ideas.

4 tn The Hebrew text simply has “has spoken good” for Israel.

5 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Hobab) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

6 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Moses) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

7 tn The form with אַל־נָא (’al-na’) is a jussive; negated it stresses a more immediate request, as if Hobab is starting to leave, or at least determined to leave.

8 tn In the Hebrew text the expression is more graphic: “you will be for us for eyes.” Hobab was familiar with the entire Sinai region, and he could certainly direct the people where they were to go. The text does not record Hobab’s response. But the fact that Kenites were in Canaan as allies of Judah (Judg 1:16) would indicate that he gave in and came with Moses. The first refusal may simply be the polite Semitic practice of declining first so that the appeal might be made more urgently.

9 tn Heb “and it shall be.”

10 tn The phrase “a journey of three days” is made up of the adverbial accusative qualified with the genitives.

11 tc The scribes sensed that there was a dislocation with vv. 34-36, and so they used the inverted letters nun (נ) as brackets to indicate this.

12 tn The adverbial clause of time is composed of the infinitive construct with a temporal preposition and a suffixed subjective genitive.

13 sn These two formulaic prayers were offered by Moses at the beginning and at the end of the journeys. They prayed for the Lord to fight ahead of the nation when it was on the move, and to protect them when they camped. The theme of the first is found in Ps 68:1. The prayers reflect the true mentality of holy war, that it was the Lord who fought for Israel and defended her. The prayers have been included in the prayer book for synagogue services.



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